Regina pinball wizards conjure up a local competitive scene

Pinball is still going strong and is growing in Regina thanks to a group of collectors and veteran players.

Tournaments held regularly at Theo Bill's Restaurant

Shaun Amos and Jamie Cossar helped created Queen City Pinball, a collective of players and collectors hoping to grow the game in Regina. (Samanda Brace/CBC News)

For Jamie Cossar, pinball machines are like potato chips. He can't just have one.

The Regina pinball aficionado now owns ten machines. Luckily for others in the city, he isn't keeping them to himself.

He and five other enthusiasts moved their machines from their private collections into Regina restaurants to host tournaments. 

"They just may look like flashing lights and just flipping the ball, but there are ways to pass, to set up your next shot and each pinball machine has its own intricate set of rules. You have to develop your own strategy to maximize your points. There's really a lot more to it than than one would think," Cossar said.

Amos and Cossar met playing two pinball machines at Regina's Rebellion Brewing. (Samanda Brace/CBC News)

Cossar met Shaun Amos while playing pinball at a local bar. Together with eight pinball enthusiasts, they formed Queen City Pinball last summer. 

"We all just kind of met around town playing pinball and started kind of making a road trip up to Saskatoon to compete in their tournament," Amos said.

"We wanted to start something of our own that we didn't have to drive two hours to and to get the opportunity to expose pinball to more people, to a wider audience, because we have a lot of fun doing it and if more people do it, then we look less like weirdos."

Official International Flipper Pinball Association tournament rules require players to play three machines, but no place in Regina at the time had more than three.

"That's why we need each other, we all have different machines and we pool them together to make this work. So it's awesome," Cossar said.

They have six at Theo Bill's Restaurant and two at Bonzzini's Brew Pub. 

"People tell me, 'Oh, have you been to Theo Bill's to check out the pinball machines?' like 'Yeah I've got a couple of machines in there,' " Amos said.

Hooked from first flipper

Amos was introduced to pinball in 2014. He says his uncle owned a 1960's pinball machine that sat unused in his garage. One Christmas, it was back up and running. Amos heard the bells and chimes of the game and was drawn to it.

"I played more games than I could count and pretty much the next day I was looking for a place to play around town," Amos said.

Shaun Amos plays one of six machines at Theo Bill's Restaurant. (Samanda Brace/CBC News)

At the time, the only place to play was Wonderland Arcade.

"Unfortunately, it's gone now, but it was a nice introduction for me because they had a good lineup of machines that gives you a chance to try things," he said. "I definitely didn't expect to be buying a machine of my own."

For Cossar, pinball has always been a family affair. His dad kept a machine in his basement and then when he bought his own home, he did the same, but he didn't stop at one.

Growing in popularity

Interest in pinball has skyrocketed worldwide in the last decade. While Regina was lagging behind, Queen City Pinball's goal to grow the pinball scene is working.

"I mean it sounds kind of intimidating. A competitive pinball tournament," Amos said. "But it's really the chance to socialize."

The biweekly tournaments have been sponsored by local businesses. 

"We had friends support, but now we're getting people we've never met out, and everyone is loving it. There's people contacting us about where they should buy machines and just they want machines for their houses," Cossar said.

The owners of O'Hanlons Irish Pub removed VLTs four months ago to make room for three pinball machines and plan on adding more.

The variety of games throughout the city can help players improve technique and maybe even help them compete at national or world competitions.

"Shaun told me, when I first kind of met him, he was like the guy you see all his high scores around town, he told me, 'The more shots you see, the better you'll be,'" Cossar said.

He said it's all about angles and muscle memory.

"I guess you could say were mathematicians," Amos said.


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